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Best Practice CIO edition: cloud computing experiences and views

Connecting virtualized IT resources with the cloud

In 2008, the Berlin-based institute for innovation and sustainability, Borderstep, recognized server virtualization could slash electricity costs by 50 to 80 percent. Professor Frank Bellosa, Head of the System Architecture Group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology understands the processes and technologies required to make this a reality.
According to Germany’s leading ICT industry association (BITKOM), there has been a four-percent fall in the energy needed to operate major IT infrastructures since 2008. However, all data centers and servers in Germany combined still gobble up the equivalent output of four medium-sized coal-fired power plants. This means IT systems account for around 1.8 percent of the country’s total power needs. Against this backdrop, improved virtualization methods are seen by many large enterprises as an attractive way of achieving greater sustainability. One key motivation is the rapidly rising cost of electricity, and another is the huge volume of IT resources businesses deploy. Virtualized server consolidation not only means better load per asset and lower server power consumption. It also pares back electricity demand for the entire infrastructure, for example for uninterruptible power supply devices, cooling systems and the network. “Electricity supply is often geared to peak load, so resources are operated inefficiently when demand is low,” explains Karlsruhe expert Frank Bellosa. Yet, run-of-the-mill virtualization solutions do not have the desired positive impact on energy costs.

IT hodgepodge hinders consolidation

Organizations with a hodgepodge of virtualized solutions struggle to consolidate. It can prove tricky, for example, if two virtual servers are not run on the same hardware “because the maintenance contracts call for differing software versions, device drivers or VM environments,” explains Bellosa. Moreover to comply with data-protection legislation, physical separation may be necessary. In other cases, license costs can be an obstacle. “These increase phenomenally where highly scalable infrastructures are involved,” continues Bellosa. In addition, support contracts and guaranteed service levels can sometimes prevent action being taken to make savings, such as the deactivation of CPUs.

Enter certified cloud solutions

One way of resolving these issues is virtualization in a certified cloud. “But all services must be virtualization-ready before making the move,” says Bellosa. “Major corporations and government agencies can certainly virtualize some of their servers in a private cloud. This delivers savings from consolidation, load redistribution and disabling of existing servers. The same is true of a hybrid cloud as long as legal and service quality requirements can be met.” In short, when it comes to virtualization in the cloud, large businesses in particular need the right contracts and the right economies of scale to ensure tangible savings.

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